The dish I have been most obsessed with in the past few months has been Vietnamese Chicken Congee (Cháo Gà). The combination of black pepper and fresh herbs over a rice porridge is simple yet has amazing flavor.
Prior to getting a pressure cooker, I made the dish a few times using my rice cooker. It was good, but because the rice cooker works by steaming off the liquid, it wasn’t soupy enough. Too clumpy. Plus it took forever. The pressure cooker solved everything. Not only could I dial in my liquid level prior to cooking, but it was now cooking much faster.
I use the Fagor 8 quart pressure cooker.
Not Authentic, But Just as Good
I’m not Vietnamese and this is not an authentic recipe. My goal was to replicate this dish in a way that is easy to make and can be done quickly. My recipe is optimized to taste amazing with minimal time. Doing this over the stove without a pressure cooker can take from 30 minutes to 2 hours. With the pressure cooker, including prep time, it will take just 20 minutes.
- Texture: The texture of the congee is a personal preference. You can make it thick like oatmeal or soupy. I prefer it somewhere in the middle.
- Chicken: Almost every recipe says to use a whole chicken. If you have one and feel like cutting it up and dealing with that, then go for it. I’ve discovered that thinly sliced chicken thighs are perfect. Chicken breasts were dry and distracted from the dish flavor, so don’t use just breasts.
- Rice: Many recipes call for mixing two types of white together. I do this, but the important thing is to use short-grain white rice. With congee, the goal is to really break down the rice. When the rice breaks down, the starches in the grains thicken the dish.
- Ginger: Required. I go overboard on ginger myself.
- Garnish: Black pepper and fish sauce are must-haves. For herbs, you can use cilantro, but for me, nothing beats Thai basil. Sliced green onions are nice if you have them, but not necessary. For sweetness, most congee dishes add a pinch of cut-up Chinese donuts. As someone who avoids both wheat and deep-fried foods, I don’t add that ingredient. But if that is your thing, add away.
What I learned is the key to making good congee is that the rice required more cooking than the chicken. To make efficient use of my time, I begin cooking the rice before I start any of the other prep work.
My congee is heavy on the chicken and ginger. Use less if you like. This is a loose recipe, so use this as a starting point and then dial in your own customization.
- 1.5 cups short-grain rice. Jasmine and/or sushi rice. Use one or blend two.
- 1 package of chicken thighs (~1 pound).
- 1-3 inch ginger. Peeled, cut into very small or crushed pieces.
- 2 cups of chicken stock.
- black pepper
- fish sauce
- Thai basil (or cilantro or sliced green onions)
Step 0 – Soak the Rice (optional)
If you aren’t ready to start cooking yet and you have some time, throw the rice in a bowl of water or the pressure cooker itself. This will help the rice break down more. If you are ready to cook, skip this step.
Another option is to freeze the rice ahead of time. According to The Woks of Life:
…the moisture in the rice freezes, expands, and breaks the rice kernel into tiny pieces to dramatically reduce necessary cooking time.
Step 1 – Start Cooking the Rice
Put the rice in the pressure cooker, cover it with water. Turn the flame to high. The water level should cover the rice by 1-2 inches. You aren’t using the pressure cooker as a pressure cooker yet. Leave the lid off and monitor. You don’t want all the water to boil off. If you need to add more water, do so.
While the rice is cooking, you’ll be preparing the other ingredients.
Step 2 – Prep Work
Peel and cut up the ginger. Slice up the chicken. Locate the chicken stock.
Step 3 – Cook the Congee in the Pressure Cooker
By this point, the rice should be boiling and cooking away. Add the ginger, chicken, and chicken stock. Look at the liquid level and decide if this is the consistency you want for your congee. You can add more water or chicken stock if you like. Close the pressure cooker and once pressurized, cook for 10 minutes on High.
Turn off the pressure cooker. Grab and bowl and serve.
Step 4 – Serve and Garnish
Add black pepper, fish sauce, and Thai basil. Enjoy!
Vietnamese Chicken Congee. This bowl also has sliced scallions (green onions).
Once you’ve had congee, with the flavor mix of ginger, black pepper, fish sauce, and Thai basil, I can’t imagine ever eating something as boring as oatmeal ever again. Congee is my favorite breakfast food, although I’ve had it for dinner as well. 10 minutes of prep work and 10 minutes of pressure cooking is all it takes to make this classic dish.